Archives for January 2012

First Baptist | Huntsville, AL

We had just arrived in Huntsville, Alabama, for a photo session with Erin Cobb.  I saw it piercing the sky above buildings and trees, some kind of ominous castle spire, as I pulled into the hotel parking lot.  From my vantage point, I couldn’t decipher the cross on top or any building attached to it.  That left only one thing to do.  “C’mon, kids, let’s go exploring.”

I turned the car onto Governors Drive, discovered mosaic and steeple, and felt that rush of excitement that only a building like this can summon in me.  Quickened heartbeat, manic speech, wide eyes–the whole shebang.

Oh, so nice to meet you, First Baptist Church of Huntsville, Alabama.  I immediately emailed Erin to let her know that I had found an alternate site for the kids photos, and then I kept circling the building and block until my kids begged me to stop.

The next morning I stood with Erin in front of the building, swearing my undying love, when she leaned toward me and said, “They call it the ‘Eggbeater Jesus.'”

Now that you mention it, yeah, I can see that.  But eggbeater or not, this massive mosaic impresses with over 14 million tiny tiles, all hand or tweezer set.  From top to bottom, the figure of Jesus stands 43 feet tall.  The First Baptist Church website details more about the symbolism of this mosaic.

And when you have an “Eggbeater Jesus,” you must also have a “God Rocket.”  That imposing tower I saw over the trees is the 229-foot steeple covered in a zinc alloy–pretty fitting in Space City.  Within this steeple is a 48 bell carillon.  (source: First Baptist Church)

I was so curious about the sanctuary, that after our photos, I had to ring the office to see if they would let us in to check it out.   A church office worker kindly showed us around, and when I asked her what a Southern town like Huntsville thinks about the design of the church she said, “People call it all kinds of things.”

“Like Eggbeater Jesus!?” my 8-year-old son proclaimed.  Oh, my.

She thankfully ignored his comment and led us down a hall lined with paintings of the previous church buildings, all of them more traditional than the last.  I asked her again, “This church is such a departure from these–were the church members at the time not opposed to such a modern structure.”  She shrugged, “No–we’re in space city, and there were so many rocket scientists in the congregation then that they thought it was great.”  

She finally led me into the sanctuary.  It was beautiful, with two walls of stained glass that didn’t disappoint; in fact, I think I gasped.  You can take a virtual tour of the sanctuary.

[photo: First Baptist Church]

I was so grateful for the chance to peek inside and the tour.

The mosaic mural designed by the Gordon Smith of Fort Worth, Texas, took 7 years to complete–from 1966-1973.

Making the trip Huntsville was definitely worth it for my beautiful Erin Cobb photographs–but I would have made the trip just for this church, also.  I am a sucker for everything about it–and the fact that it reminds me of shopping at Sanger Harris as a girl, well, that is just a nice bonus of nostalgia.

[photo: Erin Cobb]

I’ll think of you, First Baptist, every time I look at the fun photos of my children.